Destination Spain: Salamanca 2014

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Eoghan Corry of Travel Extra pictured at Colegio de Los Irlandeses in Salamanca, built in 1525 by Diego de Siloe and Gil de Hontanon it served as perhaps the most important third level insittution for Irish Catholic students when they were prevented from studying in Ireland by colonial laws from 1592 until 1812. The Irish college remained open until 1952. The college was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 1988.

Eoghan Corry of Travel Extra pictured at Colegio de Los Irlandeses in Salamanca, built in 1525 by Diego de Siloe and Gil de Hontanon it served as perhaps the most important third level insittution for Irish Catholic students when they were prevented from studying in Ireland by colonial laws from 1592 until 1812. The Irish college remained open until 1952. The college was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 1988.

As befits the scholastic capital of Spain, Salamanca looks the part. When you look across the city it seems like a tapestry of churches and cloisters, a roman bridge, its old and new cathedrals

The famed university is among the oldest in Europe, acknowledged in 1254 as one of the four great universities of the world alongside Oxford, Paris and Bologna.

You can still visit the ancient classrooms, with the softer seats reserved for the aristocracy.

And while other institutions have taken over Salamanca’s reputation, that heritage means it will always be the scholastic capital.

Eoghan Corry of Travel Extra pictured at Colegio de Los Irlandeses in Salamanca, built in 1525 by Diego de Siloe and Gil de Hontanon it served as perhaps the most important third level insittution for Irish Catholic students when they were prevented from studying in Ireland by colonial laws from 1592 until 1812. The Irish college remained open until 1952. The college was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 1988.

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1n 1929 University of Salamanca was the first Spanish college to offer language courses to foreign students Nowadays foreign students still flood the city to learn Spanish. It is a particular favourite for us. You cannot escape an Irish accent as you wander the streets.

I came to attend a language tourism conference and start learning Spanish at the Tia Tula school. I had forgotten how quickly we revert to junior infants when we are in a classroom without a clue how we are going to survive the first hour, never mind a week of this.

I was one of four, a Dutch woman and two Chinese who were dealing with a strange alphabet as well as a strange language. Bless the Eurovision Song Contest. I sang Eres Tu for them to prove my commitment. Nobody was fooled.

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Chastity belt on display at Castillo del Buen Amor near Slaamanca, Nov 11 2014

Chastity belt on display at Castillo del Buen Amor near Slaamanca, Nov 11 2014

It is easy to contemplate how far away from home and far out of their depth were the generations of Irish who passed through here. I stopped to pay tribute to them at the Colegio de Los Irlandeses.

This was the most important third level institution of all for Irish people over more than two centuries, when Catholic students were prevented from studying in Ireland by colonial penal laws from 1592 until 1812. During the 1700s Salamanca was the degree to have for those outside colonial circles.

Salamanca_1400Originally built in 1525 by Diego de Siloe and Gil de Hontanon, the Irish college remained open until 1952 and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988.

There are enough cloisters to wander on every evening of even the longest stay. In the Santa Clara convent the most ancient paintings have recently been revealed by renovation. Some of the saints pictured have so fallen out of fashion they cannot be identified from their 14th century motifs.

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Erasmus bar in Salamanca, Nov 13 2014

Erasmus bar in Salamanca, Nov 13 2014

The student population of 30,000 sustains a boisterous night life and delectable varieties of craft beers; the local Malasombra pale ale, Bizarra, Belmantica, Blass.

Local wines from the 247 vineyards of the Ribera del Duero wine region come in at a fraction of the cost of the surprisingly similar but more famed Rjocas that everyone usually orders,

IMG_1482There are dozens of character-laden local bars populated by characters: Erasmus is the magnet for the Dutch (and everyone else), the distinctive Casa Paca offers a cornucopia of hanging hams and a stunning tapas menu, Rio de la Plata, and the bouncing strobe lights of Centenara to top off the night.

An escape from the city brings you to Castillo del Buen Amor, where costumed actors dramatise the passionate history of the castle. The Bishop of Salamanca kept his lover here. A chastity belt is kept on display high on the wall of the entrance hall. It looks like it was never used.

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Factbox:

Eoghan Corry flew to Madrid with Aer Lingus, for lowest fares see aer.lingus.com.

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